Polls! They are everywhere, and it's nearly October of a presidential election year, so there is no need to explain why they saturate cable airwaves on a twenty four hour basis. What you see in them is simple. A glimpse into one small window of the electorate in the even tinier windowpane of time. It's no wonder then, why the numbers they produce are ever-changing and ever-conflicting with one another.
In the most immediate polling following the Republican National Convention, a poll or two had Romney at 49 or 50, beating the President by two. Since the Democratic National Convention was just days later, and was by all accounts far more well done than its counterpart, the president saw a decent four-to-five point bounce in the national polls that he was able to ride for about two weeks. A double-'gaffe' from Romney in back-to-back weeks didn't help his overall standing in the polling data nationally, but it didn't appear to hurt him much, either. In fact, it's likely that his comments regarding the Administration's fumbling of the policy around the attacks in Libya that killed four of our foreign service members may have helped level him off with the president following the phasing out of the DNC bounce.
Conventional wisdom around this time of election seasons is that "national polls don't really matter" and state polling data should be more heavily weighted. In that case, the President seems to be claiming leads or expanding leads in just about all of the recent polling done among the "swing states." Each poll varies in its sample size, sampling errors, and the demographics its samples, but I think it's safe to say that if the election were held on the best Tuesday of 2012 (my birthday, tomorrow) Mitt Romney would probably lose the popular vote something like 46-49 and would probably lose the electoral count 235-303. Luckily for the former Governor, the race still goes on, and election day isn't for another six weeks.
What I find funny is the amount of Democrats, and members of the media who have written off Romney's chances at the White House following the most recent trend in the polling. Perhaps since they both have had such a large hand in some of the outcomes of the polling (generally polling data this far out is only reflective of what those people are hearing at that moment) it's not very surprising that they're prepared to declare the race over. Now I could wring my hands of the things I wish the Romney campaign were doing differently, and I do think in their M/O of "Caution" during this campaign season--they are relying far too heavily on this being a referendum on the president rather than being "the choice" that takes us in a different direction, but I will not write his candidacy off. There are still six weeks left.
Six weeks is a long time in politics. There are exactly two jobs reports still to be produced for public consumption before the election on November 7. There are three televised debate on the major networks that still have to play out. There are several hundreds of millions of dollars still to be spent on negative advertising from both sides. Basically, all is still to play for.
I will admit, in the last six weeks, it's Mitt Romney that still has to make the uphill climb. President Obama is teetering on top of the hill. Somewhat surprisingly, the right-track/wrong-track polling is shifting in Obama's favor despite an economy that sputters along and the job forecast remaining bleak. Almost all of the polling demographics seems to favor a large Democratic turnout come November, basically the same Democratic turnout from 2008. I highly doubt that turnout will be as large as the polls seem to suggest.
Mitt Romney has two chances to help people visualize what a Romney presidency will look like. The first two debates will be crucial for him to separate his agenda from Obama's failed agenda, and the agenda he will hope to pursue if re-elected. His last chance will come as a result of things that are completely out of his control. I firmly believe that the crisis in the Middle East, and more on the forefront-the two remaining jobs reports can bring undecideds or wavering 2008 Obama supporters to his side on November 7.
The morning of election day, the election will probably be a foregone conclusion. No one in modern history has won the presidency going against the polling the day of the election. With the last jobs report coming the Friday before election day, the race could turn as late as Sunday. But for now, even though Romney trails by a handful of percentage points nearly everywhere, Obama's leads have not been mobile, and he is not polling above 50-percent anywhere. Surely, it's the President's to lose, but you won't hear me writing off Mitt Romney's chances until November 6th, if at all.